If you’ve ever met me, chances are very high that you know about Nubbins.
Nubbins was Hubs and I’s cat, a unique Japanese bobtail, adopted by Eric in 1998, when she was believed to have been 2 or 3 years old. Up until this past weekend, I had never known a day without her and Eric together. When we first started dating in 2001, she was already a major part of his life, and lived with him in not only Athens, GA, but also Nashville, TN. After graduating UGA, she was placed in a kitty carryall with all our stuff and we drove across country to Los Angeles. The trip was a bit of a tax on her little system, as she had some urinary crystals – something we quickly sorted by getting the right food for her.
She took things in stride when, a few weeks later, we brought home a (then) tiny ginger kitten, who I named Brendan Small. Even though he grew to outweigh her by pounds, she was always the alpha cat. Still, their friendship was like a tether. They never seemed to want to be much further than a meter or so apart (no matter where we lived in the world). I never felt bad leaving them, because they always had each other.
When Eric signed his contract for us to move to Dubai in 2007, everyone’s first question was about the cats. Of course they were coming with us. After a short respite with my parents, Brendan and Nubbins were shipped from Atlanta to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Dubai. I remember weeping with relief when we met them in Cargo Village. These two resilient numpties came out of their carriers ready to go.
Life was good.
We moved, then changed jobs, then made plans to move to Qatar in 2011. In preparation for the relocation, I decided to have both of the cats teeth cleaned. This turned out to be one of the most idiot decisions of my life. When Nubbins went under, she had a very bad reaction to anesthesia (which she was not tested for), and came out quite sick. I coaxed her with any food she would eat, I made her drink water from tiny water caps. With just a few weeks before we were all meant to fly, we took her back to the vet, where we endured one of the scariest nights of our lives. Fortunately, the news was relatively normal for a cat of her age — Chronic Renal Failure. Her kidney function was roughly 40%. They treated her, and she gained some of her lost weight back. We had no choice but to move her, but like always, she was happy to be wherever Eric was.
Life was good (again).
Our Brendan, who was nearly seven years younger than Nubbins fell ill in 2013. He passed quickly, and it is one of my biggest regrets in life that I couldn’t be with him. I’m still not sure if Nubbins knows what happened, or how I could ever explain to her.
We moved back to the Emirates at the start of 2014. This time to Abu Dhabi, which I think was truly Nubbins’ best life. She practically lived out on our small porch, even when temperatures blazed over 100F, soaking up the sun like an old retiree. We were all healthy and happy. We had house sitters that adored her. Moving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Nubbins cried (as she always did) the entire car ride.
In our new villa, she was her usual self.
She found a shrub she loved.
We got her a basket by my desk.
We fell into our usual routines.
For every trip we made, we had to make our peace that she might not be waiting for our return.
I was beginning to wonder if Nubbins might be immortal, when she started slowing down during June of this year, which we believe was during her twenty-third year, nearly seven years after being diagnosed with CRF. I knew a difficult decision was coming, one that I didn’t want to make. We were on borrowed time, and each day was a blessing.
Perhaps against our better judgement, we went home for the first time in two years, leaving her with friends. As far as I know, she never spent a single night in a kennel. Updates were vague, but when I heard she was turning down treats at the very end of our trip, I knew we had to be close to the end.
We were back at our villa at 1AM on Saturday. It was clear that she had lost weight, that our darling little fighter had slowed down too much. She was without the spirit we always knew her to have. Had she held on just for us? I think so. She was a powerful thing and knew that, as promised, we would always come back for her.
We made the appointment. We relived our favorite memories, looking through pictures and recounting all our special times together.
We held her until the end, which is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Its more than knowing someone from 2001, it’s the unconditional love she provided. It’s a thousand personality quirks. Sitting and writing by myself most days, I could simply look at her sleeping peacefully and not feel alone.
They broke the mold when they made Nubbins. We were lucky enough to share a life with one of the best animals in the world, and I will never take that fact for granted.
I will honor her with a children’s book I’ve long had in mind. Hubs will get a tattoo. We will tell future pets about her. Her ashes will always have a special place in our home.
Wherever you are in the world, go give your best friend a cuddle. I promise they deserve it.